Last Wednesday night I drove two and a half hours, battling rain, traffic, and impatient Los Angeles drivers, and all I have to show for it is this Tofu Crouton Salad from Cham Korean Bistro in Pasadena.
Well, that, the joy that comes from spending time with good friends, and a bowl of the casual, health-conscious eatery’s addictive Beef Bulgogi Rice Cakes ($8).
All very worthy lights at the end of that dark and dreary traffic tunnel.
Especially the company and Tofu Crouton Salad ($3 for the small portion).
Of course, when I first pulled into the parking garage underneath the restaurant on Cordova Street, my legs stiff and sore from the crawl from Santa Monica, I didn’t think that anything would make the effort worth the long while it took to get there.
Least of all a tofu crouton salad with fried tofu, butter lettuce, sautéed kale, spicy sunflower seeds, and black sesame vinaigrette.
While I love salads – and would even go so far to say that a well-composed quinoa salad is my version of a vat of macaroni and cheese on a dreary day – I didn’t have particularly high expectations for a leafy affair composed of two inherently bland ingredients – tofu and butter lettuce.
But I love kale, sunflower seeds and anything sesame-flavored, and after my long, delayed trek, I was starving for some form of immediate gratification.
So salad it was.
When it arrived at the table, the fried tofu croutons, sunflower seeds, warm kale and sesame dressing neatly nestled into each butter lettuce cup on the plate, I was even less optimistic about its potential. It looked like just an ordinary salad.
And then I took a bite.
The tofu and kale were warm, the sesame dressing, sweet and addicting. The spiced sunflower seeds countered the dressing with just the right amount of heat, and when all components were tucked inside a crisp butter lettuce cup, it was the perfect bite.
And the perfect little ray of sunshine on a rainy day.
Cham Korean Bistro
851 Cordova Street
Pasadena, CA 91101-2675